Part II of the tattoo special with Mike Portnoy
After some more gigs in the meantime and another interview (read it there), I (Amir Djawadi) got the chance to hook up again with Mike Portnoy - today in his position as the drummer of TRANSATLANTIC - to get an update of his latest tattoos and the stories behind them. And maybe we get some additional information about other relevant things.
MIKE PORTNOY OF DREAM THEATER
Tattoo-special with Mike Portnoy - part II
- 08.05.2010 in Cologne -
HM: Welcome to part II of the Mike Portnoy tattoo special. Many months have passed by...
MP: many years (yeah, Mike is right part I was about 2 and a half year ago), a lot of time under the gun.
HM: I can tell you, that your tattoo story was one of the most read articles on our website.
MP: really!? Cool!! Awsome.
HM: still today after these 2 1/2 years people are checking it out. ItĀ“s great and so I thought it might be a good idea to bring up part II, especially as you have gathered some more stuff.
HM: what is the story about the other tattoos?
MP: O.K., where do you wanna start? Pick some...
HM: then letĀ“s start with the dogs. You already told me last time, that you wanted to have them.
MP: this was done by Kat von D from L.A. ink and Kat is one of the greatest portrait artists. And I knew, I wanted to get a portrait of my two dogs and I knew that the only person in the world I wanted that to do, was Kat. I hooked up with her a couple of years ago...and she did these...and actually she has a new book coming out and sheĀ“s featuring this in the book.
MP: yeah, this is Bongo (the white one on the top) and Maggie and Bongo passed away a few months ago, which was devastating to me. You know, my dogs are...family members. They are like children to me. And Bongo for over 13 years was one of my closest companions in the world, so I knew, I wanted to have a portrait of her... to be with me forever. Even when sheĀ“s have passed away. So I did this before she passed away. And Maggie is still with us, but anyway. This is one of my favorite tattoos of all actually.
HM: have they been on tour?
MP: Aaah, no they havenĀ“t toured with us, but Bongo has been in many studios with me. And any time I making a record, she usually spends some time in the studio with me.
HM: Bongo sounds like a male name...
MP: ...right, but sheĀ“s a girl. The name Bongo for me was perfect for her. In addition to a Bongo being a drum obviously, itĀ“s also a combination of two of my favorite drummers: "Bonzo" - John Bonham and Ringo (Starr). A perfect combination.
HM: ah, I see. And how about the Tama logo!?
MP: this here on my left forearm was done by Corey Miller and he actually even signed it. HeĀ“s also on L.A. ink and heĀ“s one of the masters of black and grey. Basically this is part of an upcoming ad campaign for Tama and I had mentioned to them at one point, that IĀ“d be willing to get the Tama logo tattooed on me...thatĀ“s how dedicated I am to Tama drums. I always didnĀ“t like drummers that jump from company to company...I feel a real loyalty to the companies I endorse. And I told them IĀ“d be willing to even get the Tama logo on me and they thought it would be a great thing for a campaign. Maybe theyĀ“d get a bunch of Tama artists, that get the Tama logo. So actually we went...we had Corey Miller do this and Tama filmed the entire thing for an upcoming ad. I just couldnĀ“t get the Tama logo and not get the Sabian logo...so I included that in there as well. IĀ“m just as dedicated to them as well. And Corey is a drummer himself. HeĀ“s done some things for Remo heads designing stuff and heĀ“s a drummer himself, so I thought heĀ“d be the perfect guy to do this.
HM: great. Will that campaign be used in Europe too?
MP: I donĀ“t know. And then below here, thatĀ“s my serenity prayer wristband. Since IĀ“ve been sober - over 10 years now - the serenity prayer is one of my favorite prayers just to keep me on target. And is has the 4 keywords. The prayer is: god grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can and the wisdom to know the difference. Basically these are anagrams, which means you can read them as different words in different ways. ThereĀ“s serenity and/or acceptance. HereĀ“s courage and/or wisdom. So in this way, I always have the prayer on me. Whenever I wanna f*** it...go crazy, take somebody head and scream, I just take a look at my wrist and it calms me down.
HM: Good! (Impressed by the special tattoo and the 10 years of being sober).
MP: ...and then here, thatĀ“s my deathbat. I got it at the end of the making of the new AVENGED SEVENFOLD-album. I had such an amazing experience with those guys in the studio making the new album. It was a very, very emotional situation in the studio, Ā“cause they were dealing with moving on after the loss of The Rev (or James ĀJimmyĀ Owen Sullivan, who had been there drummer since 1999), who died in December, so it was a very, very heavy and emotional session. Definitively the most emotional session, IĀ“ve been part of throughout my whole career. You know and after spending all that time making the record, I knew, I wanted to get something to symbolize the bond, that we created and the brotherhood that these guys have. So I got this at the end of the session and Zacky Vengeance, the guitar player ...he got a matching one as well.
HM: So you did the whole drum thing?
MP: Yeah, I played on the whole album....and IĀ“m going to tour with them starting in July...
HM: Also Europe? Or only America?
MP: Well IĀ“ll be with them for the rest of the year so whatever their tour plans are...
HM: Is the CD out yet?
MP: It comes out in July.
HM: I must check that out!!
MP: What else?
HM: The snake!?
MP: Well this whole piece from my elbow up...basically 3/4 of this sleeve here was done by Chris Garver down at Miami Ink and this was 4 sittings with Chris. And Garver is one of the greatest of all time. HeĀ“s a master. And I knew, I wanted to get a sleeve and I wanted have him do it. It was basically 4 sittings. We started with the owl, that was the first sitting.
HM: What does it stand for?
MP: It doesnĀ“t stand for anything...I just thought, an owl would be cool. IĀ“m a night owl...only awake at night.
HM: ...and wisdom...Hahaha!
MP: Yeah wise old owl...Hahaha! I thought, it would be a pretty cool tattoo for Chris to do, and I thought the snake was a nice contrast to the owl and basically he filled it out with some cool shading and designs and we wanted it set like in a city setting and this is the N.Y.C. skyline...thereĀ“s the Empire state building...and actually Garver signed this as well. The little guy on the top of the building spray painted Garver on the wall. So I had him sign it as well. Actually the only piece till up here I already had, was the heart (the famous DREAM THEATER "logo" - see part one for that!).
HM: Yeah, I know...
MP: ...and Chris worked around it...worked into it.
HM: And then the cards down here...
MP: This was done by a guy called Spider, whoĀ“s in Chicago and this basically works both ways. If you look this way, itĀ“s the king of clubs and heĀ“s smiling and if you turn the card upside down, itĀ“s the king of hearts and heĀ“s crying. Basically for me itĀ“s like the role I play in DREAM THEATER or in life in general. When you take charge and you are becoming a bit of a leader, thereĀ“s good sides and bad points. Basically itĀ“s like: itĀ“s great to be king and it sucks to be king. On the one hand itĀ“s great to be in control of your destiny, be a leader, but on the other hand itĀ“s very difficult and you get a lot of the blame and criticism as well, so I thought, this was kind of fitting for the type of person I am.
HM: This guy looks a little like you...
MP: Yeah actually he does have a little bit of a blue beard...
HM: ...and also from the face...
MP: ...and the rest of it is just fillers. Here on my leg I added "Music is the best". You know, basically this leg is my tribute to all my favorite bands. THE BEATLES, LED ZEPPELIN, THE WHO, PINK FLOYD and Frank Zappa...and being that the leg is dedicated to music, I wanted to add this famous Frank Zappa-quote. And each letter comes from another band...M from METALLICA, U from RUSH, the S is from KISS, I is from IRON MAIDEN, the C is in TRANSATLANTIC, then I in MARILION, then S in YES, the T is DREAM THEATER, the H is VAN HALEN, the E is GENESIS, B is THE BEATLES, the E is LED ZEPPELIN, the S is SLAYER and the T is in LIQUID TENSION EXPERIMENT.
HM: Great idea...
MP: All music logos of bands, that I like and then my back...my back was also done by Corey Miller. I took a design that were using for a DREAM THEATER-T-shirt. It was something that was designed for DREAM THEATER, but I modified it, so that is was something, that I could use for my personal life, so basically after my dad passed away, I got that only a few weeks later and taking us to the birds heads, one is symbolizing my mom, and one is symbolizing my dad. So my momĀ“s says 1944-1984, those are her birth and death years, and for my dad it was 1940-2009. Basically itĀ“s a memorial tribute to my mom and my dad and in the middle is my birth year in roman numbers, which is 1967...kind of symbolizing my parents...creating me. And then I put a black rose in the center. Also for my dad was this (points on his finger)...thatĀ“s his initials...he always would sign with his initials, with an HP. I actually got that, before he died, when he was still struggling and battling cancer. You know, I wanted him to know, that heĀ“d always be with me at all times and I especially wanted it to have in a place, where itĀ“s easily visible and always a reminder to me.
HM: Great. So itĀ“s all very personal, right!? Most of the things are related to the family and...
MP: ...yeah musical influences and family...I mean, if you look at my back, you have my mom and my dad, my son, my daughter and my wife. All on my back.
HM: Family album...
MP: My son and my daughterĀ“s artwork...bands...DREAM THEATER stuff everywhere...the dogs are also part of the family. It shows, that family is so incredibly important for me. Family and influences. Musical influences. You know, when I first started getting tattooed, like the first 10 or 12 had to be a very specific thing that symbolized a specific thing, but as time goes on, the more you get, itĀ“s more about art. Something thatĀ“s going to look cool, well done...
HM: And fit to the other(s)!?
MP: And also I like to work with artists, that I admire. The fact, that I have Kat and Corey and Garver, you know, very few people have all three of them. ItĀ“s kind of IĀ“m like a collector, you know, collecting artwork from the artists that I admire.
HM: And are there any other people around, that you want to have to "work on your skin"!?
MP: I recently met with Bob Tyrrell whoĀ“s a famous artist down in Detroit. He came to a DREAM THEATER show. He does work I really admire and he wants to tattoo me and IĀ“d love to work with him...itĀ“s just, IĀ“m running out of space...IĀ“ve got a little space here and there...
HM: Maybe on your back!?
MP: Yeah, maybe... But really Kat, Corey and Garver were my three favorites. So I really, really wanted to work with all three of them.
HM: How did your connection with AVENGED SEVENFOLD came up?
MP: Well the quick answer is, that The Rev, their drummer that passed away, I was one of his favorite drummers...one of his heroes. So when he passed away, they wanted to continue to make the record in his honour and they figured, letĀ“s ask his drum hero. They asked, if IĀ“d come in and make the record as he was no longer around. For me, it was an honour, to be asked something like that in such an emotional situation for these guys. So I was honoured to come in and do the job and help bring his vision to life. It was tragic, that he died so young.
HM: What did he die from?
MP: They havenĀ“t publically announced it, so itĀ“s not my place to talk about it.
HM: I understand that...(the tourmanager gives us sign to end the interview) so thank you very much.
Who knows, if there will be a part III, but for sure weĀ“ll hook up with Mike again in the future from some interesting insights...for now check out all the photos and the report about the TRANSATLANTIC-gig in Cologne.
(Interview and all photos by Amir Djawadi)